Nagamootoo’s Broadcast Bill signals the end of Press Freedom in Guyana – Jagdeo
…calls on private broadcasters to prepare to mount legal challenge
The Broadcast Bill that was tabled by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo on Thursday will spell the beginning of the end of press freedom in Guyana; pave the way for Government’s expropriation of private property in addition to unleashing government propaganda on the nation.
Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo made these damning charges today (Friday) as he addressed members of the local press corps at his Church Street Office.
Jagdeo in his condemnation of aspects of the Bill has since also called on private broadcasters (TV and Radio) to challenge the Bill in the Courts were it to succeed, in face of the one seat majority held by the coalition A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) in the National Assembly.
In addressing the matter frontally, Jagdeo told media operatives the, “minion, lackey Prime Minister has brought something to parliament to justify his lucrative perks” but “if we read the Bill carefully, we will see how insidious it is.”
Former President Jagdeo declared that the Bill will spell the end of press freedom in Guyana as a result of some of the egregious provisions.
Expanding on his position—in opposition to sections of the proposed legislation, he pointed to the fact that when enacted and the Broadcast Authority comes on stream, all existing operators will firstly have to reapply for their licence, “and you may not get a licence again.”
The former president said while there is nothing sinister in the need to reapply per say, “we have a situation where a broadcasting authority by a “lackey” Prime Minister will now make a determination as to people broadcasting 15 or 20 years; if they get a licence or not.”
He said, “It is not the reapplying is the problem, is conferring on the authority the right to refuse people who had had licence that may have dated back 15/20 years…they have acquired property rights in this country by being there for such a long time”.
Such a situation, he said, could lead to a withdrawal of licenses and this presents “a direct threat to what we have now, the people that are broadcasting at this time.”
Jagdeo posited no doubt in a partisan operation of the process where political criteria will be used for the reissuance of a licence to existing broadcasters.
He pointed too to the provision enshrined in the proposed Broadcast Bill which mandates every radio and television privately owned to dedicate free of cost at least one hour in the evenings to Public Service Programmes.
The definition of Public Service Programme under the proposed law, relates to programs produced for the purpose of informing the public and promoting the activities of the government.
This proposal, according to the former president, once enacted will not only substantially change the media landscape with forced government propaganda free of cost on every single radio and TV station, but is also an act of expropriation on the part of the administration.
The State, under the Peoples Progressive Party/Civic Administration never imposed such measures, Jadeo recalled, and reminded that there were never any punitive sanctions in place for persons refusing to air government programs even at hostile outlets and even if the administration had offered to pay.
“They had no punitive measures taken against them, now under this law, the Government will expropriate from you”,
In a direct appeal to the private broadcasters, Radio and Television, the former President said, “I want to say to broadcasting agencies if Government gets its way because of the one-seat majority is to file a legal challenge to it, this will not stand…it’s tantamount to expropriation of property…both in sense of taking away licence and to expropriate the time they have.”